Though the Indianapolis Colts exited the 2019 NFL Playoffs without so much as a whimper to Patrick Mahomes’s Kansas City Chiefs, the future is undeniably bright in Indy under first-year head coach Frank Reich.
Just one season after finishing third in the AFC South with a 4-12 record, the Indianapolis Colts snuck into the NFL Playoffs in the 2018-19 season with an impressive 10-6 record under first-year head coach Frank Reich.
Though the Colts finished behind the Houston Texans in the division this season, they demolished Bill O’Brien’s side in the postseason, blasting Houston 21-7 in the Wild Card round.
After beginning the season 1-5, the Colts looked like they were in trouble and headed for another anemic season, but they turned it around in a big way after a statement victory against the Buffalo Bills in Week 7.
Following that 37-5 win, the Colts finished the season with a remarkable 9-1 record, and while most of those wins came against bottom-feeders like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders, Indianapolis did shut out the Dallas Cowboys, who defeated the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card round last week, 23-0 in Week 15.
At the center of the Colts renewed success in 2018 was star quarterback Andrew Luck, who was healthy and pretty much back to his old self during the second half of the season. But a man who deserves just as much credit as the franchise quarterback is Reich.
Formerly the San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator, Reich is no stranger to working with talented quarterbacks and leading teams to success. Reich coordinated the NFL’s third-best scoring offense in 2017, helping the Eagles achieve Super Bowl glory with backup quarterback Nick Foles after an injury cut Carson Wentz’s MVP-caliber season short.
Though Luck didn’t receive much MVP love in a year where Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Philip Rivers, and Drew Brees produced insane statistics at the quarterback position, the former No. 1 overall pick enjoyed plenty of success under Reich.
Indianapolis finished the 2018 season fifth in the NFL in points per game and seventh in yards per game, with Luck throwing a whopping 39 passing touchdowns. They achieved this with a thin group of wide receivers, as star wideout T.Y. Hilton was the lone player at the position with more than 500 receiving yards. So it’s a good thing Reich and Luck coaxed a career year out of former first-year tight end Eric Ebron.
Doing a lot with only a little was a trademark of Reich this season, and while he’s known as a guru on offense as a former NFL quarterback himself, the Colts strong work on defense cannot go overlooked either. Indianapolis seemed to have massive holes on that side of the ball on paper, yet they finished as one of the NFL’s top ten defenses in terms of points allowed; they also allowed just a 21:15 TD:INT ratio.
The fact that the Colts were so strong on both sides of the ball with limited talent is a testament to how well-coached this team was, especially once Reich got into the swing of things over the second half of the season. Again, the Colts did benefit from an easy schedule and didn’t have their best day in the divisional round against Kansas City, but their dominant victories, strong statistics, and playoff victory over the Texans cannot be ignored.
After struggling in 2017, Reich immediately came in and made the Colts a dangerous team in the AFC, getting Luck back to star status at the quarterback position despite question marks all over the roster. With a few more tweaks to both sides of the ball, which could include a big name like Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell on offense, the Colts could be a darkhorse Super Bowl contender in the future, just as they were a few years ago when Luck led this team to the AFC Championship Game.